This used-car dealership on mid Market St. has intrigued and amused me since moving to Babylon by the Bay.
Since ordinary batteries involve ions, I suppose the Chevy Volt or even a Prius could be said to use a form of ion propulsion, but how many people associate electric cars with 'ions'? In any case there is no indication that this place specializes in electric cars. Their website does not explain the name, but I can only guess that the name is intended to evoke ion propulsion for spacecraft.
The logo - for a business that touts itself as the bay area's 'newest car dealership' - sort of goes along with that connotation, I think. Doesn't it have a bit of Zeerust retro flavor?
Ion drive, in fact, is probably the only high specific impulse that qualifies as a trope, in the (correct) sense used by the Evil Website. A broad cross-section of people, not just geeks, have at least some vague sense that ion drive is an advanced and futuristic space drive, yet at the same time a 'real' one, not pure sci-fi jive. Perhaps its status was confirmed by Trek, either The Wrath of Khan or its TOS progenitor episode, in which ion drive was characterized as an archaic technology.
Nuclear-thermal propulsion, AKA atomic rockets, do not quite qualify as a high specific impulse drive, its classic form outperforming chemfuel by a modest factor of two or three. Fusion drive, much debated and belated at websites like this one, does not seem to me to have quite made the jump from geekdom to the broader public. The same applies to generic torch drive. Possibly Avatar will promote antimatter drive to trope status; only time will tell.
Compared to these latecomers, ion propulsion has an enormous headstart. Somewhat remarkably, Robert Goddard considered ion propulsion more than a century ago, in 1906. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published on the subject in 1911 while Goddard performed actual laboratory experiments in 1916-17.
The rocketpunk-era books I read as a kid about Our Future in Space almost always mentioned ion drive, generally in the context of what I now call the plausible midfuture. I recall one book with great illustrations that portrayed an ion drive ship under the heading To the Stars. The next page had a photon-drive ship, To the Galaxies. The temporal implications of intergalactic STL travel were left undiscussed.
I don't have any specific recollection of ion propulsion in rocketpunk-era SF. Heinlein had no interest in space drives that lacked bone-jarring acceleration; his propulsion sequence thus went from nuke thermal to Ortega's mass-conversion torch to the unabashedly magitech Horst-Milne-Conrad impellor.
Clarke also never specifically mentioned ion drive, at least that I recall. He was usually rather cagey about deep space propulsion details, though I often got the impression that some sort of electric drive was implied.
Therein, of course, lies the rub. As I understand it, ion thrusters are in fact not suitable for deep space propulsion of large, human-carrying spacecraft. Their thrust is very low, even by high-ISP standards, and apparently the thrusters cannot readily be scaled up. Ion propulsion is now in service, used by the Dawn probe among others, but there are unlikely ever to be ion-drive ships.
But in trope terms - in the mind of the popular culture - ion drive is synonymous with electric space propulsion in general. Technologies such as VASIMR, while they do involve ionized plasmas, are not 'ion drive' in the strictly technical sense. But in some broader cultural sense they are indeed ion drives, technical details be damned. If it emits a faint blue or purple glow, produces gentle but steady thrust for days, weeks, months on end, it fits the cultural vision of ion drive.
Though I wouldn't recommend it for Bay Area freeways.
The image was taken from my el cheapo ('free') smartphone while riding a vehicle with electric drive: the F Market streetcar.